Elements of Cinematography

Image from “The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Imaging” by Isaac Kerlow.

I recently came across this site: Elements of Cinematography containing a very concise explanation of different types of shot and camera move. For filmmakers, this is a must-know.

A take means the point where we start recording to the point where we stop. Long takes (like the Orson Welles kind) requires very careful planning of composition and choreography, while fast cuts (fights, gunfights) create rapid rhythm.

Shots ranges from the extreme wide shot to the extreme close up. Depending on intention, we use wide shots to establish our scene and characters, or make our characters small, while close ups generally reveal something more intimate. We should also avoid flat compositions by shooting our characters frontally.

There are also high angle vs low angle shots and two shot vs over-the-shoulder shot. Use them according to intention, too. Generally, the camera acts as the human eye, so use that as a starting point.

There are different camera moves: pan, dolly, roll, boom etc. It is important to note that a zoom does not change the perspective of the scene, while a dolly does. As such, dolly produces a sense of movement throughout, while the zoom only allows us to see the subject closer. These can be combined to produce amazing effects though!

By the way, there is no difference between animated films and live action films, as they both use the same language. Learn them!


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